Muhammad Musri, an unusual imam, brokers Quran-burning debate
Imam Muhammad Musri is comfortable brokering interfaith dialogue, but in his bid to stop Florida pastor Terry Jones from burning Qurans on Saturday, he has waded into a controversy with global repercussions.
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Musri has come under fire before from conservative bloggers. The Big Peace website, run by conservative Web publisher Andrew Breitbart, reported recently that a Musri-run mosque held a Hamas fund-raiser last year. That report also linked Musri to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is currently running for reelection, noting that Musri is a member of Gov. Crist's Faith-Based and Community Advisory Council.Skip to next paragraph
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Last year, Musri also waded into the controversy over runaway Ohio teen Fatimah Bary, who said she fled her family because she feared her father was going to commit an "honor killing" against her for converting to Christianity. "There's no such thing as honor killing in the Quran," Musri said at the time. But he acknowledged that all religions harbor extremists. "Is she a rebel teenager running away from home, or is she really in danger?" he asked.
Musri also appeared with Christian and Jewish leaders last year in support of federal health-care reform, calling it a "fundamental right for all … citizens."
"He could not back down, and I felt that it's my responsibility, as the Muslim leader in central Florida, to go up to him and speak one on one with him and explain that he's putting American lives in danger and he should reconsider," he told CNN.
Mr. Voll says Musri is simply subscribing to "the good old-fashioned American suburban reaction to controversy, which is to sit down and talk about it." But some Muslim leaders believe Musri is facilitating what amounts to an extortion attempt by trying to influence the Park51 project.
"I don't think there would be anything productive resulting from a meeting that, at its core, would be a form of religious blackmail," says Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in Washington.
The Pentecostal preacher's plan to burn Qurans set off worldwide condemnation and protests. Defense Secretary Robert Gates put in a personal call to Jones, urging him to cancel the pyre so as not to endanger US troops. President Obama said on Thursday that the Quran-burning would be a "recruitment bonanza" for Al Qaeda, the organization that planned the 9/11 attacks.